29.4.04

Vancouver Trip
Plane Trip and Arrival

Wednesday night and the red glare of my clock is bleeding into my eyes: 1:45. In 3 hours I have to get up. Its hard to be anything but excited about the prospect of only having 3 hours of sleep because I am flying out to see Chapter. I close my eyes, putting a stop to the bleeding, and drift into a very light sleep.

4:45 and awakened by the annoying tonal blips of my alarm clock. The drive to the airport, graciously given by Superman (who got no more sleep than I) passes in the early morning haze of the man who’s still in bed in every way possible; I need caffeine or sugar. When I awake I have checked in, Superman is presumably on his way back to bed, and somehow a half eaten Tim Horton’s donut is in my hand. The haze lifts and I head to my gate, only to be accosted by one of the most tempting things you can put in my path. A book store.

Next thing I know the plane is taking off. I have been so engrossed in this book, William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition”, which I bought at the bookstore, that I haven’t noticed my surroundings as someone wheeled me onto the plane. (Well, ok, I read as I walked on the plane, which may have been rude to the airplane peoples now that I consider it).

“Far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves, athletic shoes or feature films.” One of the many lines that catches my eye, being insightful, as I blur through this incredibly interesting and attention-holding book. It’s true, but my question is, why do we let it happen that way? Shouldn’t we, as the supposedly all-powerful consumer value the product more than the advertisement? Of course, the answer hits me almost as fast as the question. We have apathetically accepted, and actively participate in, a system that encourages that we be deceived and that the money goes to the entertainment, as well as the advertisement, before the needs. It is also a system in which, regardless of what ‘they’ want you to think, we don’t really have that much power at all. Back to the book.

I booked this flight using Air Miles, which means that I have an hour layover in Calgary (yeah, figure that one out). Oh, well, more time for reading. Or so I thought. Except that something, I think it is the intercom system, is busted. It emits tonal blips, very similar to my alarm clock except with varying pitch, at intervals just random enough to be consistently annoying. I think it is the intercom system because there seems to be no escaping it within the terminal. Still, the book is engaging enough that I can ignore it most of the time.

I finally board the flight from Calgary to Abbotsford, and, being a longer flight, get served cookies and a drink. I always drink Clamato Juice on airplanes, with no ice. Something about drinking it on an airplane makes it taste better; as if the juice knows it is way up in the air, and the fear it has of heights increases the unique taste. Or maybe its because airplanes are dry and cramped, so everything liquid tastes better (actually, did you know that when your in the air you taste buds are less sensitive, which partially explains the bad rep of airplane food). Either way, its good. I then doze off, and dream of an alarm clock which is broken, and so it only discharges its annoying tonal blips randomly, and no matter how hard I try I can’t wake up to turn it off.

I wake up to the plane landing, and am overtaken with excitement to see Chapter. It always makes the landing take an excruciatingly long time in the present, and an unnoticeably short time in memory. When I step out of the plane, warm B.C. air hits me, hills and mountains fill the view, and I, surrounded by nature’s beauty and man’s innovation, rush inside to the beautiful and creative woman God created for me to spend the rest of my life with.

As I walk through the sliding security doors, I see her. The timeless moment of first sight; smiles form, paces pick up, arms reach out. A vision to be cherished. Chapter.


27.4.04

The Question in Job

“Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11
“Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 2:4-5 (Both NRSV)

I have had the pleasure of being able to research Job for two essays this semester. It has been fun. One of things I like is that Job brings up so many questions, and seems to offer so few answers. It is most often associated with the problem of pain. How can God allow evil? Or why do bad things happen to good people? This may be the most common question, but it is not so central in the text itself. Getting closer to the center, one might ask where did the friends of Job go wrong? At the end of the book God declares they have not spoken rightly of Him. I am not saying that you can’t find where they make mistakes, but do you know? Its interesting reading and looking for them. Reading the first speech, by Eliphaz, I realized that he gives a lot of advice I agree with. Odd, to say the least.

Most often, if I hear anything about Job, it is very short and simple. Job was righteous, patient, and good at persevering through suffering. His friends were idiots who tried to steer him wrong. God blessed him in the end. The book isn’t that simple though. I’ll avoid the language and translation issues, though they abound. The real question of the book is this: what is the relationship between piety and prosperity? This is a question I very rarely hear asked. Must God bless us for obedience/faith/faithfulness/etc.? and if he does, does it taint our faith? Why are really following God, why do we really try to love Him? Job had no concept of heaven, death was it for him, Hades and the life of shades at most, and yet when he lost everything, according to the book, he remained faithful. With no concept of reward here or after, wishing for death from the very beginning of his speeches, Job somehow remains faithful.

I bring this up because I feel that we very rarely ask this question of ourselves. I don’t ask it very often. In a consumerist society we all too readily ‘sell’ the good news, and therefore it would be counterproductive to ask why we are really faithful, to ask if we only follow for the good things we will get. We presume that that is the case in the very way we present out message. Heaven forbid we talk about what it might cost, let alone the fact that the rewards are beside the point. “Do you know if your going to heaven when you die?” A common question, and perhaps even a good one, to ask as an opener before sharing the gospel. Yet, the presumptions hold. “Do you know that Jesus is waiting for you to, completely out of self-interest, come to Him and profess, so that you can gain all He has to offer at no cost?” The problem, of course, is the large grain (or grains) of truth in such attitudes. People really are motivated by self-interest, and your results will probably be much better if you use that to your advantage (of course, then the question is what kind of results are you looking for?). Also, grace really is free for those who need it; it really comes at no cost. Some have pointed to this cruel paradox in despair. To be told to be selfless by the man who offers you everything. Jesus teaches us to give in secret, yet knowing we will be rewarded greatly by our Father in heaven.

As one man puts it, Gavin Drew in this article, “Our 'What's-in-it-for-me' attitude to faith, our 'pie-in-the-sky-when-I-die' use of the God-idea, is merely the religious reflection of the same drive for self which motivates individualistic rightist social theory and capitalism. Only when we realize that our 'blessing-for-me' attitude has its roots in 18th Century Enlightenment ideas and has nothing much to do with the relational personalism of biblical revelation will we be liberated for right action and thought.”

And still, the question remains: what is the relationship between piety and prosperity? Why do you follow God?

This has been a difficult question for me to face. I am so used to everyone pandering to my self-interest. Trust Christ, he will get you eternal life in heaven. Pray, God will answer. “Knock and the door will be opened to you, ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find.” Again that truth. If you know how to give good gifts, how much more so your Father in heaven? There are definitely two sides of a coin here. We are only servants, and poor servants who can’t even do their duty. We must leave all and follow him, hate mother and father, sister and brother. And, just in case you wanted to privilege one side over the other, they mix happily together. Sell everything to gain the pearl of great price, give it all to buy the land with the buried treasure.

Though the final count works out in favor of those who follow Christ, we must follow without that as goal or motivator. These problem stabs at the very base of my nature, and there is really only one way I know of to solve it. Knowing Christ. Only when I am taken up in worship of God, when my mind is surrounding by the light of His glory, when my heart is filled with His compassion, when my life is directed by His hand; only in those rare moments do I escape my selfish and grasping inner darkness.

21.4.04

The morning before my last exam. My hardest exam. The exam after which I am as close to being graduated as I can get (the rest being up to the university; giving me my degree, processing marks and such). Feels wierd. Then a flurry of travelling, moving, marriage, and, God willing, teaching ESL in S. Korea. You can probably guess which of those is most exciting for me :)

15.4.04

Due to a large amount of seemingly random input over the last week or so, I have been thinking about a few things I want to share. Isn't that how it always works?

I have been thinking about technology, learning/education, stories/imagination, and spirituality, and how all these things interact. I have realized that my views on these things are heavily interrelated. I hate it in school when they make us memorize things, especially names and dates. Who cares about the names and the dates? I realized why I hate it to; it is because it is useless and pointless, just the kind of work I hate. I can look any of those up on the internet in less time than it takes to find them in a text book, and chances are it will only get easier, so why should I waste time memorizing them? Isn't understanding why an event happened, how it happened, if it was a good thing, how we could prevent it or duplicate it, how we know what happened, etc. much more important than knowing who did it, when, and where? The important thing to know along this vein, then, is how to distinguish good and true information from bad. We all know the internet is filled with crap. Isn't it more important then to learn how to learn, and to learn how to filter?


Some similar ideas have largely affected my reading of the bible. Systematic theology is not very attractive to me. Systems don't seem to fit, either the book, or real life. I can go online and with a few clicks look up every reference to the bible, with the greek or hebrew words if I want (even though I suck at greek, and am not that great at Hebrew), to love, war, peace, justice, kill, murder, hate, humility, prayer, or whatever else I want; and suddenly systematic theology doesn't work so well. Try reading some of the references to faith and works side by side, or to wisdom, or many other words. There is more complexity here than we give credit for when we crush it all into a neat box.

Along the same lines, lets do an imaginative excercise. Imagine being a Christian, or discipling other Christians, who could not read, and never would. How much of our devotions do we focus on bible reading? I am not saying this is a bad thing, it is a privilige I treasure, or try to (though most of the time I don't appreciate it nearly enough), but I am pointing out that technology affects our spirituality. How can it not? So what does the technology do to my spirituality? I have the bible on my palm pilot, and in the 2 months I have had it, or less, I have taken more notes there than I ever did on my paper bibles in the previous 7 yrs. As I mentioned, I have easily accessible complete concordances, and more commentaries at my fingertips than I would care to read. The 37 volume set of the early church fathers is availabe free online, I have that to (no I haven't even scratched the surface). Besides redirecting my focus to a much broader view, I also have been grateful to be able to develop hermenuetical skills for my bible reading, as well as my internet reading. I was lucky to have a prof in my second year university who taught us that stuff, not just for bible reading, but more generally.

Lets take Disney to. Today on my way back up to edmonton we saw the Prince of Egypt, which I watched mostly without sound. Still, it brought up questions around the exodus narrative that I had never asked myself before. What did Moses feel about the plagues? what was his relationship to Pharoah? What kind of person was he, really? We so commonly case biblical figures into a role which just happens to fit our ideal, whatever that may be. but what do we actually know, and what can we imagine? Disney made me ask this... not sunday school, not sermons, not books I am reading. Partially this is my fault; its not like I have never heard of, or done, imaginative readings of scripture, but it also seems that I, at least, have been taught to look at biblical narrative in certain, very limited, ways.

So I have to ask to wonder, what else will technology do to my spirituality, and others? And what is really important about education? Is that not changing drasitcally? Is it not more and more important everyday to learn how to filter; filter our defensive reactions from our honest and open ones, filter false information and unreliable sources from good ones, filter bad arguements and logic from well developed thoughts and ideas? Filter out our limitations so that we ask more and more questions? Is it not more and more important to learn how to learn, instead of presuming we know how to teach? Is it not more and more important to know ourselves better and better, instead of being taught to run from ourselves? And what of the Christian walk with our Lord, the wild God, unpredictable, infinitely loving, beyond our imagination in every way, and yet who became one of us. Should we not explore the new possibilities and vistas open to us, instead of fighting to stay where we are so that the future can happen to us unaware and unexpected?

6.4.04

Just stumbled across this article, which I thought I would pass on.

Sex Abuse by Teachers Said Worse Than Catholic Church

The article points out that though the studies indicate public schools are worse than the catholic church for this stuff, the public school issues have recieved little to no news coverage. Gotta wonder why...

I must say though, that the numbers seem a bit high, almost unbelievable... you can check this article out to.
"When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer."
Brennan Manning "The Ragamuffin Gospel"

3.4.04

Love
by George Herbert


Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

"A guest," I answered "worthy to be here";
Love said "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee."
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord; but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

"I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out his severed oesophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that has been cut away is his soul."
George Orwell

I wonder if you could make this same point about the church. It is the Spirit that has been cut away, and thus a large number of Christians never know the abundant life in Christ. We happily eat our meal, the ABC's of church, and it is only when we try to fly that we realize the terrible thing which has happened to us.

Just a thought.